How Buying Local Benefits your Community

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Tue, Dec 17, 2013 @ 08:38 AM

This is the time of the year when advertisements are being thrown at us from more angles than usual.  Most of these advertisements come from campaigns directed by big box chains, and it’s always nice to score some nice deals on gifts for your loved ones. However, let’s also not forget that hidden gem whose sparkle is increasingly neglected amongst the flashing billboard.  In the spirit of holiday giving, be sure to spend some time buying local as a way to give back to your community.  

Buying local helps support your local community.There are a lot of benefits to your community’s economy when you purchase locally.  Supporting small businesses keeps more money in your community and usually helps money circulate faster.  Buying local means that small businesses flourish and create jobs and opportunities for people in your neighborhood, rather than outsourcing jobs overseas.  Additionally, local businesses tend to rely on other local businesses for services such as banking, printing advertisements, supplies, and legal services.  When you spend money at a local vendor, the portion of your money spent that the business uses to pay its expenses stays in your community by circulating to other small businesses. (Source: Time Magazine “Buying Local: How it Boosts the Economy”)

David Boyle, a researcher for the New Economics Foundation, explains how money circulates differently when you spend locally, rather than at large chains.  He uses an interesting analogy: “Money is like blood. It needs to keep moving around to keep the economy going," but when spent at large, multinational businesses, “it flows out, like a wound."  The force pumping that money is you, the consumer.  

Buying local can also prove better for the environment. Local stores are less likely to import product, reducing the need for transportation. An infographic by the website eLocal emphasizes that airplanes account for more carbon dioxide emissions than any other form of transportation. This is startling, considering that shipping accounts for one billion metric tons of Co2 emissions a year. The hundreds of miles that a product travels to get to your local big box store is a hidden cost to the environment, your health, and your wallet.

Buying locally isn’t just about where your money goes.  It’s also about what you get in return.  If you try to explore local shops you’ll find unique merchandise that can’t be found in the big box stores.  There’s something quaint about visiting a small shop rather than a large department store. The “buy local” movement is about understanding your options as a shopper and informing yourself about the impact of your decisions.  

For example, if I want to buy a book I have a few options nearby.  I can check out my local used bookstore and get it for $3.  If I purchase it brand new at the large bookstore chain, it will most likely cost me double, or triple, the price at the least.  For me, a brand new book and a used book aren’t too different in value.  I could get it used on Amazon for pennies, but the shipping will set me back $4, and I’ll have to wait a week for it to come, which I’m not too keen on doing.  There are ebooks, but I’m sentimental and like to read with pen in hand to write in the margins.  In this case of buying locally, I’ve considered the options and found that buying locally is my best option.  In addition, the woman who owns the used bookstore is much friendlier than the bookstore chain. If I talk to Amazon, I don’t think the website will respond.

Now, granted, with the success of big box stores, local vendors can’t always compete with the prices of larger chains.  However, buying locally is does not mean sacrificing your wallet.  It means being aware of the benefits of buying locally versus shopping at large chains.  It entails understanding the value to what you’re buying rather than just the price.  Some things are more easily accessible at a large store because many small businesses have been run out of town by the bigger ones. In other cases, a local restaurant may offer better and more unique dining options than a chain restaurant or fast food option.  

When given the option, don’t forget to support local businesses. Paying it forward is not just about service.  It’s about the lifestyle choices you make each day that impact those around you.  It’s important to focus on where your money is spent, and make decisions about more than a price tag. As a consumer, your money is your vote.

 
Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vsmoothe/249921300

Topics: America, community engagement, community partners, Buy Local, Christmas gift ideas

Get Outdoors: Active Volunteering Helps Everyone

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Fri, Oct 25, 2013 @ 09:30 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

Over the last quarter of a millennium, humans have moved indoors.  Beginning in 1750 with the first wave of the Industrial Revolution, a gross migration began to occur when people from rural, outdoor, farming communities moved to cities.  Now, more than 50 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas. In the early stages of industrialization, people were moving to cities for factory work. Now, in the post-industrial economies of the developed world, people have moved up from the factories and are working in office spaces, living stationary lifestyles under fluorescent lights.  Students spend most of the school day inside.

With the invention of universal education that came with industrialization, children have also been brought inside. Education inflation has caused young people not only to spend school hours inside, but also to spend more time inside studying, with everyone sinking down in front of the TV or computer when the long, tiring day is over.  Today, we see less-developed countries experiencing the same lifestyle shift that brought us indoors.  

Now, I’m not romanticising life before the “Great Indoor Migration”, because I think it has ultimately improved our lives.  Without this shift I would probably be spending my day harvesting crops, cleaning the house, and thinking about getting married in five years. Instead, I’m going to school and hoping in five years to start a life and career for myself.  The fact of the matter is that we are now living indoors more, and it’s time to spend a little time being active outside.

The fun, animated video “What if You Stopped Going Outside?” describes health risks and problems that could arise from not spending enough time outside - including osteoporosis, depression, and even cancers. 

Furthermore, the Harvard Health Letter gives some of the benefits of spending time outside. These benefits include getting more vitamin D, more exercise, a happier life, better concentration, and a better healing time in the event of injury (you can read more about how sunshine and fresh air help these processes). Being outside feels good and is good for you. Being outside and being active go hand in hand with being healthier and happier, but the main problem facing most people is finding time to be more active.  Volunteering outdoors is a great way to merge outdoor activities with community engagement. You will be impacting the community by volunteering and helping yourself by being active.

A nature trail is a great place to volunteer.

While out in nature, you are inevitably active.  Hiking, climbing, and running are all ways we interact with nature while being active.  It is also important to protect the environment around us so it can sustain us and an active lifestyle. Volunteering with organizations concerned with the environment is a great way to get active and volunteer. Some outdoor environmental projects could entail planting a community or urban garden or helping clean up a river, beach, highway, or nearby park. To find these types of opportunities, look up local parks and environmental organizations. Remember not only to keep it outdoorsy and active, but to keep it local too. Part of being more active is also getting out of those cars and using your legs as transportation.  Cars pollute the environment, so if you are trying to improve the environment and enjoy your time outdoors, do your best not to pollute it even more.  Plus, you’ll have a direct impact on your own local community.  

Sports are another way people enjoy their time outdoors.  Walks and marathons are common fundraising events, and nonprofits are always in need of volunteers to register runners, hand out water, stand along the route and encourage the racers.  For example, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure and the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in the States are two runs held to support breast cancer research and breast cancer survivors.  Right now, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but the events are held year round. Local organizations may also hold fundraising races for local causes. In Greensboro, NC, an event call the Chicken Walk will take place next month to raise money to help the Interactive Resource Center, a local resource that helps people experiencing homelessness, keep its doors open.  A fantastic woman named Amy Murphy began the project by taking chicken that restaurants were throwing away, and feeding it to the homeless, who she refers to as her “friends downtown.”  If you are in the area, find out more about this year’s inaugural Chicken Walk. Volunteering with athletics is a great way to help with an important cause, but volunteering actively can also mean supporting the cause of physical activity and exercise itself.  

Volunteer coaching is a great way to stay active and make a difference in your local community.

Volunteer coaching or hosting a field day are both great ways to get outdoors.  Not only will you be active, get outside, and have fun, but you’ll also bring the importance of being active to children growing up in the “Great Indoor Migration”. You’ll become a positive mentor and leader to the kids you work with. You can inspire them to lead healthier lives, develop sportsmanship, and enjoy just being a kid.  To find these kinds of opportunities, team up with local schools, parks, and recreation centres to get involved or to pioneer your own program geared toward fitness.  


What are some ways you are tracking your Noble Impact™ by getting active outdoors? 


Classroom image via FotoPedia

Topics: service learning, volunteering, community, America, civic engagement, community engagement, opportunities, youth impact, millennials, social, involvement, outdoors, active

America's Civic Health: How Volunteering and Service Shape our Nation

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Wed, Jul 03, 2013 @ 10:57 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

Service is a key factor in a person’s individual health and well-being. Service can mean fulfillment in one’s life, which contributes to a more peaceful state of mind and overall happiness.  However, service is not just about the effects it has on an individual, but more importantly how the actions of several individuals can affect the greater community and the nation.  To analyze the health and well-being of the nation,“the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) hosts the most comprehensive annual collection of information on Volunteering and Civic Life in America and partners with the National Conference on Citizenship to produce an annual report of our nation’s civic health.”  The key findings of this report show that increased volunteering and service are the result of the work of millions of volunteers dedicated to their communities. Flag of the United States of America

For the purpose of the study the CNCS collects its data from the “Current Population Survey (CPS) Volunteer and Civic Supplements conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).”  The data collected attests to the volunteer work of people aged 16 and up.  The CNCS formally identifies volunteers as “individuals who performed unpaid volunteer activities through or for an organization at any point during the 12-month period, from September 1 of the prior year through the survey week in September of the survey year.”  The report sheds positive news on the state of volunteerism, indicating that everyday people are helping overcome greater challenges by volunteering.  

In recent years, volunteers have stepped up to the challenge of meeting the needs of disadvantaged community members.  According to the report, volunteers engaged in several popular areas of service to meet their community’s needs. These include: fundraising (26.2%), feeding each other (23.6%), giving labor or transportation (20.3%), and educating students (18.2%).  All this work totals to about 7.9 billion hours of volunteerism.  The numbers are clear. Volunteerism contributes to a greater sense of community.  It creates neighborhoods and cities where people care for one another, help one another, and support one another; this shows in the 41.1% of people who trust most of the people in their neighborhood and the 15.6% who say they trust everyone in their neighborhood. When people help each other and rely on each other, the build trust between each other and feel safer in their surroundings.

A young American volunteers in construction.

The report also found an increase in volunteers in response to the devastating affects of Hurricane Sandy.  Volunteering is the greatest contribution and individual can give to a community because it asks of a person to give of themselves what they find missing in the world around them.  With two out of three people reporting they served by doing favors for neighbors, this builds a correlation between volunteerism and better communities.  In a world where technology can make it easy to isolate oneself from the outside, people have not lost what it means to be human by continuing to volunteer.  

In addition to a greater sense of community, mass volunteerism is also conducive to family life. With almost 90% of volunteers reporting they eat dinner with their family a few or more times a week, close families are fitting with a civically engaged population.  High rates of volunteering are found among parents, with parents being more likely to volunteer than non-parents in the same age group.  Parents are most often volunteering at organizations to help their children such as schools or youth services.  The top five states where parents volunteer include Utah, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, and “working mothers are a key part of volunteering parents, as nearly four in 10 (38%) volunteered.”  The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” comes to mind when contemplating these stats.  Parents, in response to shortages in funding for schools and children’s programs, dedicate themselves and extending their parental commitments to the greater community.  Volunteerism is not only increasing, but it is also increasing for the betterment of children.  Additionally, parents who volunteer will likely influence their children to also volunteer as youth and later in their lives.  

A student volunteering in the community.

By presenting these statistics, CNCS encourages everyday people to take part in their communities so that the rate of volunteerism will continue to rise along with the civic health of the nation.  They encourage you to take part by following the example of the millions of parent volunteers to help youth.  This can be done by donating time, resources, and encouragement to improving the self-esteem and education of young people.  The CNCS also suggests taking part in disaster relief efforts or helping veterans and senior citizens. A list of local volunteer opportunities can be found on NobleHour.

The proof that volunteerism and civic engagement are rising is encouraging.  If volunteering rates are improving, the communities are improving, and individuals are working together toward a greater cause.  For once, one should be encouraged to “follow the crowd” and engage in civic service. By doing so, each individual can contribute to a “culture of citizenship, service, and responsibility” that successfully tackles everyday issues within a community.  Sometimes as a volunteer, it’s easy to wonder if one person can truly make an impact.  Cumulatively, the impact is clear.  People steadfastly working together is making for communities where people trust each other, depend on each other, and befriend each other.  The results are back and the nation’s civic health is doing well.  The numbers are good, and they can only get better.  Keep searching on NobleHour for ways to cultivate and raise volunteerism.  

“Imagine all the people sharing all the world . . . And the world will live as one.” –John Lennon, “Imagine”

Topics: service learning, service, volunteering, experience, community, America, civic engagement, community engagement, parents, CNCS

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